Photographer Awarded $1 Million Over Online Shaming

You know that emoji where the eyeballs pop out of the head? That’s what went through my mind when I saw the news that a Dallas jury awarded more than $1 million to a wedding photographer who claimed that a couple ruined her business based on bad reviews and negative comments in the media and on social media.

Negative reviews are no fun. They’re no fun for business owners to deal with. They’re no fun for a company that handles reputation management to deal with. But they are a fact of life. The difference between a normal, negative review and this case is the jury found this couple went way above and beyond just an instance of leaving a negative review.

This doesn’t mean every business owner will be able to go and sue anyone who leaves a bad review. It’s going to have to go way above and beyond that. But it is interesting that, as far as I know, this is one of the first times a jury has awarded money to a business over a negative review.

So we’ll have to see where this goes from here.


How to respond to Bad Google Reviews

What To Do If You Get Attacked on Google Reviews

When it comes to local rankings and reputation management, Google reviews can make or break you. If an angry poster leaves a scathing review, the first impulse may be to fight fire with fire. However, we encourage our clients to take pause with negative reviews and try to find other ways to diffuse the situation.

 

Try to Verify Their Story

When you first discover a negative review, try going into your records or asking around to confirm the story. This serves a dual purpose of helping you to better help the customer and to determine if the poster was ever a real customer. If it’s not a real customer, you may even be able to challenge the review – if not on Google then on other platforms (and angry reviewers love to cross-post on multiple sites like Yelp and Facebook).

 

Respond Professionally (Even If Their Story Can’t Be Verified)

Once you’ve gathered more context on the situation, it’s time to craft a response. Your response should be neutral or empathetic in tone and offer some sort of avenue to resolution. Remember that all eyes are on you and how you handle this – you want others to see your professionalism and customer dedication.

Here’s an example:

 

Dear. Mr. Stevens,

 

I’m sorry to hear you weren’t happy with your dry cleaning order. We’d love to make this right for you – please call me directly at 555-5555. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Sincerely,
John Doe, Owner

 

Alternatively, here’s how to handle a customer who can’t be verified. You want to be empathetic while letting onlookers know that the reviewer could be pulling a fast one (maybe a competitor put them up to it). Often if it’s spam, the poster won’t even be using a real name.

Dear BluSky88,

Thank you for your post. Our team tried to investigate your issue, but could not find any information on your order. Could you please call me directly at 555-5555? We’d like to see how we can help.

Sincerely,
John Doe, Owner

 

Report Abuse to Google

There are a few circumstances that a review could be reported to Google, all outlined in their review guidelines. The following are violations that are eligible to be flagged as inappropriate:

  • Advertising
  • Spam
  • Contains phone numbers, addresses or URLs
  • Off-topic
  • Offensive language
  • Conflict of interest
  • Illegal material
  • Copyrighted material
  • Sexually explicit material
  • Impersonation
  • Personal and confidential information
  • Hate speech

To flag a review:

  1. First make sure you are logged into the correct Google account that owns the Google My Business Listing.
  2. Locate the public-facing review.
  3. Under the poster’s name, hover over the timestamp of the review (ex: 2 days ago) until a flag appears. Click on the flag.
  4. Fill out the form and submit. The Google My Business team will review your ticket and determine if the review should be pulled.

Moving Forward
Make sure you’re always receiving notifications of new reviews as they trickle in. It’s best to respond to these as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to continuously be building up your reviews, either by manually reaching out to customers or using an automated system such as Podium.